Some thoughts on buying farmland near St. Louis


This essay is an encomium to my beloved friends, Drennan & Lauren Bailey, their son Taylor and their business, Bailey Properties.  (Note to reader:  I selected the pretentious word “encomium” to ensure that Drennan, in his effort to censor my text for public consumption,  is driven to the dictionary no later than the fifth).


First let me list my credentials for this report: I left journalism to go into rural real estate.  I later left rural real estate, and rural America, in order to go to graduate school.  After graduate school I became a political economist for a think tank.  (I had studied the politics.  The economics I made up).


I left that field to do market analysis, and then marketing, for Price Waterhouse. (For time context, this all occurred before PW acquired Coopers & Lybrand (take that Coopers!) but somewhat after Noah’s flood).


That information will be useful for several reasons.  First, you’ll know that I come to this essay from several relevant angles–as a reporter, a former real estate broker, a country boy (since dreadfully citified), a political analyst, a quasi-economist and market analyst. Second, you’ll realize that I have failed at a staggering number of professions. Third, you’ll know that Drennan, who entered rural real estate more than a decade after I left, waited until the profession had largely recovered from the damage I had done it.


Drennan grew up with a love of rural America and the farm life.  He was raised in St. Louis (well, actually in the very posh suburb of Ladue, so don’t let him give you the country-boy-up-by-the-bootstraps crap!) but the family frequently commuted to their farm near Kirksville, MO.  He went to college at Westminster College in tiny Fulton MO, a wonderful institution where I had already spent a year challenging the faculty’s tolerance with my pomposity. Drennan joined me a year later to offer the faculty a very different kind of challenge. (He’ll have to tell you those stories!)


After college Drennan moved to Kirksville and to the old farmhouse.  He was joined, later, by his new wife Lauren who realized that, having agreed to marry Drennan, she was in no position to start being discriminating.  (Have Lauren show you pictures of how she transformed the home; her efforts on Drennan were, and remain, less successful).


Drennan and Lauren not only managed the farm successfully but grew it dramatically.  I know this because half the time when Drennan and I made plans to get together somewhere he would cancel them to scrape together the down payment on another patch of farmland he had bought without knowing how the hell he would finance it.  (People, if you want advice on creative financing, Drennan is your guy.  He can also explain to you why you should NEVER fall so desperately in love with a farm that you put it under contract without informing your spouse.  Again, he’ll have to tell you the story).


That farm produced more than corn and beans.  The environment was sufficiently fecund (dictionary trip #2, I hope) to produce four magnificent offspring (Lauren’s parenting having clearly proven a more than sufficient to offset any impact Drennan might have had).  Their children are Ashley, now a lawyer; Tiffany, a teacher; Drennan III, a consultant with a global firm which must go unnamed because it is a PWC competitor, and Taylor, the son in the business who sells elevators when he isn’t selling farmland. (By coincidence, my favorite Ashley story involves a crowded elevator and the expression “dirtbag;” have them tell you that one, too).


Real estate brokerage started as a side enterprise but it quickly grew. It grew even more quickly when Lauren forced Drennan to quit buying farms and concentrate on selling them.  When Drennan and Lauren decided to leave the farm they hired managers, returned to St. Louis and settled into their wonderful niche—investment and get-away farms for urbanites.


The only remaining major development in the history of the Bailey Properties is that in {year} Lauren left her teaching job to join the company full time.  The combination of their talents (no joke here) marked the breakthrough year for the company.  (Oh, I did forget to relate that Lauren taught pre-schoolers {?} for X years, in addition to helping with the business and being a mother to four.  In {same year as above} she concluded that her time with pre-schoolers had prepared her for full time engagement with her husband, his being, at 55, the equivalent of 11 five-year-olds).


So, from that brief history here’s what we have:


  • An investment (farm real estate) famous for holding its value
  • One that, unlike precious metals and other sanctuaries of value, is also a sanctuary for people, and a joy to own.
  • A founder who grew up in the business, managed and grew farms, wins the love and trust of everyone he knows and will become not only your broker but your least conventional friend. (If Drennan ever strikes you as reasonably normal he is having a bad day; go home and come back tomorrow).
  • A family whose qualities of joy, integrity, and mutual commitment will write themselves indelibly (dictionary #3?) on your hearts.
  • Finally, you have a testimonial from an utterly credible narrator. (Well, four out of five ain’t bad!).


If you have even an inclination to consider a farm investment you owe it to yourself to call Drennan, Lauren or Taylor.  This will not just be an investment opportunity.  It will be a life adventure!


Good luck.  And tell me how it works out.


From our dear friend Pat Nichols.